Finding Your People In College

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Growing up in the Southeast as a tall male, who eventually stopped growing after reaching 6'5", I was always expected to play Football or Basketball my whole life - I did neither. When I was 6 my parents decided to take my family to Boone, NC for winter break and my older brother decided he was going to use the trip to teach me how to snowboard. He had learned on a trip to Squaw Valley he took with friends when we lived in Thousand Oaks, CA. My brother Kyle's method of teaching was simple - he took me to the top of Sugar Mountain and said,"By the time we get to the bottom, you'll know what to do."

Fast forward eleven years - I have been snowboarding as much as possible throughout that time and have moved from Alabama to Puerto Rico, back to Alabama, and then to Virginia. In high school, I became friends with the four or five people at my school who dreamed of winter and snowboarding rather than summer and sitting at the beach.

But now, it's freshman year of college - first week - time to make the friendships I've been told will last a lifetime. Friday afternoon of Welcome Week, VCU has what they call the SOVO Fair for all the student organizations to present themselves to new students. I arrive determined to find the Snowboard Club, which I saw listed on the Student Organization registry; however, after spending two hours walking around the Siegel Center like a lost puppy talking to every other organization I finally stumble across their table - it's empty. Naturally, I asked one of the faculty that runs the student organizations and they informed me that the club disbanded the previous spring. That was absolutely unacceptable. I began spamming every VCU Facebook group I could find trying to find four more interested people to sign the charter so that I could form a new club for skiers and snowboarders. Eventually I found them and together we chartered the Ski/Snowboard Club of VCU.

Starting with only five people we began to slowly expand, once we were officially a school club at the start of the spring semester, and reached a whopping total of 18 members. Yet, the next fall, with a fresh new group of incoming freshman and transfers, that passionate group of 18 transformed it into a club with a resounding 201 members! I had honestly never expected to find more than say 50 people at a school in central virginia who shared a passion for skiing and snowboarding; however there they all were. The other club officers and I also found local stores to be sponsors, offering all of our broke college student members discounts on gear, apparel, and tune-ups. Most importantly though, I feel as if I started a community for all the people like me, all the people who could only find a few friends who shared their passion. I know personally I have made countless friends through spontaneous after class road trips, midnight urban builds using the three inches of snow one finds on the streets of Richmond.

This fall will be the first semester since I founded the club that I will not be President, I will be studying abroad in Northern Sweden. One of the other officers, and a good friend, is now taking over leadership of my brainchild. The two of us have been contacted to see if we are interested in forming a team, so we can join a Southeast Conference and begin competing. What I created just to find other passionate snowboarders and skiers has turned into more than I could have imagined at the start, and is still continuing to grow. This experience has really given me a deeper appreciation of these sports, as more than just a sport but as a culture and community.

- Caleb Walker

P.S.

A small group of club members went to Snowshoe over spring break and we shot footage to make a club video to further advertise and expand. If anyone is interested, here's the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu5xUN3ZNIU&list=U...

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